The Triple Bottom Line

Green is definitely the flavor of the moment for marketing janitorial, engineering, and of course, landscaping services.

But everyone’s doing it. They’re Me-Too Green.

Contractors seeking to get an edge and stand out from the competition are seeking that next advantage.

So what’s next?

The Triple Bottom Line (3BL).

3BL is a concept where business success is measured in profits -and- environmental stewardship -and- social responsibility. The key is “and”.

3BL (also called People, Planet, Profit) takes into account the interdependence among all three. Not profits at the expense of the environment, or the community at the expense of profits.

3BL is different from green because it recognizes the need for businesses to be profitable. And adds social responsibility into the mix.

Multiple Names – Overlapping Concepts

There are two other concepts that are similar to 3BL; sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Confusingly, 3BL is also known as an approach for public sector full cost accounting. It was adopted in early 2007 by the UN’s International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)

These concepts overlap, interconnect, and are sometimes used interchangeably.

Mind boggling.

A Clearly Understood Name

However, for marketing purposes, one name must be commonly used to avoid further confusion.

Sustainability can sound as if it’s only about the environment. And corporate social responsibility may be too much of a mouthful.

That leaves 3BL, which seems to fit the bill for ease of use and memorability. Specifically since contractors’ focus has been on the bottom line, profits. Using 3BL as a new name for a new concept seems an easy choice.

Does 3BL Give An Edge?

The short answer is yes, if the green movement is any indication. Already more customers are looking to do business with green contractors or buy green products. This trend will only speed up as public awareness and peer pressure continue to rise.

Besides the poster children of Levi Strauss , Ben & Jerry’s , and The Body Shop there are many other successful, large 3BL businesses.

Getting to Scale by Jill Bamburg, explores how front running 3BL businesses grew up without selling out.

How will 3BL help Contractors Prosper?

1) A True Win-Win-Win

When 3BL contractors achieve their goals (People, Planet, Profit), everyone’s smiling, worthy warm fuzzies for all.

2) More New Business & Faster

This is the point of this post. Contractors who can tell customers their 3BL story will have the advantage over competitors.

3BL contractors will capture that wave of business from customers that green contractors are now receiving.

But here’s the surprise, and it’s a good one.

3BL contractors will get more business more quickly than green contractors.

That’s because customers will be more aware of the ethics of business. The green movement will have prepped them. And they’ll be ready to move their business quickly to 3BL contractors.

3BL is the Trifecta of cause marketing under one roof

Think of the number of customers who are now going green, and the multitudes who will shortly.

Add corporate customers who require representation by small and disadvantaged businesses (Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America, etc.).

Toss in public agency customers who require prevailing wages and benefits (airports, counties, municipalities, etc.).

Lastly, include customers who have been harassed by unions about wage and benefit issues (property management firms, hotels, etc.).

That’s one enormous salad of opportunity for 3BL contractors.

Those contractors will have designed, or re-engineered their business to serve People, Planet, and Profit. And are now aligned to reap the market advantages of 3BL.

There Really Will Be A First-Mover Advantage

Unlike the slow take up of green services, 3BL contractors will reap first-mover advantages over latecomers.

With compelling messaging and marketing, 3BL contractors can launch further, farther and faster than green contractors have done.

Several of those benefits are:

  • Greater customer awareness
  • High customer preference & loyalty
  • Greater efficiencies from the earlier learning curve

How to Get Started

Learn the concepts and then take them into action.

Read The Business Guide to Sustainability. It provides a self-assessment and rating system for the services industry, and by individual functions within an organization. Throughout the book additional resources are listed.

For facility service contractors I’m guessing the most challenging of the three bottom lines will be the People part. At least regarding higher wages and customers’ price sensitivity. Did someone say recession?

3BL is a challenge. But it’s the future of services industries, specifically janitorial, security, engineering, and landscaping.

Are you up for the challenge?

Chris Arlen
President, Service Performance

Technorati: green cleaning, marketing, change

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